Running at a brilliant pace in the second half of the four-hour challenge at Laguna Seca, Highcroft Racing's elation at Stefan Johansson's phenomenal driving turned quickly to despair as the ...
Running at a brilliant pace in the second half of the four-hour challenge at Laguna Seca, Highcroft Racing's elation at Stefan Johansson's phenomenal driving turned quickly to despair as the #9 Acura was taken out of the race. Johansson, driving the second stint at a breakneck pace, passed the #1 Audi and the #6 Penske Porsche to move up to third position. As he came out of the last turn on the 90th lap, he was struck from behind by the #1 Audi, which flattened the left rear tire. Johansson slowed considerably due to the puncture and, as he crested the hill at turn six, the #16 Dyson Porsche hit him from behind. The incident finished the car for the day as he ended up in the gravel trap.
The last race of the season was particularly disappointing for this young team who has come so far in such a short amount of time and had a strong shot to finish third in the driver championship.
As Stefan stepped out of the car he said, "I don't know quite what to say - it's highly disappointing. I think we could have won the race today - I just felt we had the car to do it. It was awful to get hit the first time and then even worse to get taken out completely. I don't know if we would have recovered from the damage, but it was just body damage - the suspension seemed fine. I could have driven it back to the pits. It's one of those things you have to live with - we were so close but didn't quite make it."
Up until that point, the race was running smoothly for the team. At the start, while trying to outrun the #1 Audi into turn two, Brian Herta spun mid-corner. David Brabham, close behind Herta, avoided a spinning Herta and spun, too. Brabham pulled the Acura ARX-01a quickly back onto the track. Brabham commented, "Even with the spin at the beginning of my stint, we managed to come back very well. I think I might have been knocked slightly from behind. But we got back on course and pulled back up to sixth position. The car was performing really well throughout my run. We were fighting for grip, along with everyone else, especially when the track grew colder as the day went on. But when I came out of the car, we were running strongly. Staying on the same tires was tough because we picked up a lot of marbles, but we still managed to hold position and we were in good shape when Stefan got into the car."
Team owner Duncan Dayton said, "This is a bitter disappointment for the team. Stefan was on a tear so it is really unfortunate that the Audi ran into the back of us. A driver is entitled to make one move to defend his line, which Stefan did and then the Audi punted us up the back side which caused a tire puncture. It's a real shame because I think we might have won the race and scored third in the championship -- it was just unbelievable. We passed one of the Porsches and one of the Audis, which is quite an accomplishment. It's a real shame for the guys because we worked so hard all year to get here. But this season has been great learning for us and we plan to come back next year stronger than ever."